In a 2016 survey of retail loss prevention executives, staff turnover and retention of staff was identified as a cause of concern. “Attracting and retaining a good caliber of loss protection professional at regional and street level [is problematic],” said one respondent in the report by Professor Martin Gill, Retail Loss Prevention in Perspective, PCRI.
The report notes that high staff turnover in stores, including in asset protection and loss prevention positions, complicates the effort to keep general and LP staff continually updated and skilled in profit protection. Moreover, the issue is not likely to abate anytime soon. As the labor market continues to tighten, the risk of losing quality LP practitioners is likely to increase.
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People continue to play an important role in loss prevention efforts, according to the survey respondents. Many had praise for technology, such as video and RFID, but most felt that theft prevention relies primarily on people. “The favored crime prevention tool was most often staff,” the report concluded. “Offering both a visible presence and an opportunity to prevent thefts and intervene when necessary.”
Retaining talent is made more important by the fact that personnel continue to be the primary cost of LP departments. Although technology gets the lion’s share of attention, it is people that we spend our money on, according to a survey by LPM/SDR for “US Security Industry: Size and Scope, Insights, Trends and Data, 2014-2017,” a report by ASIS International and the Institute of Finance & Management.
Anne Stevens, an executive coaching consultant at ClearRock, an outplacement and executive coaching firm, says that it’s critical for companies to control any expenses they can. “One cost they can get better control over is turnover. It costs between two and three times a worker’s salary to replace a departing employee, including recruitment, training, lost productivity, and severance costs,” she said. “Companies are trying to reduce turnover first through non-monetary methods,” she noted, with the most popular retention strategies being commitment to more careful selection, screening, orientation, and training of employee hires.
While reviewing personnel management strategies is not as time critical as preventing the latest coupon fraud scheme, it’s important to keep abreast of management advice that experts suggest can lead to better department performance. Below is some of that advice in the areas of motivation, leadership, taking vacations, and retaining talent in loss prevention positions.
Motivation. As employees and work conditions change, so do the best ways to motivate staff. What’s working now?
- Identify specific challenges–such as reducing the amount of time required to complete employee bag checks–to motivate staff to enhance productivity.
- Reward staff for exceeding performance goals.
- Share praise with staff. If a “customer feedback” form or some other internal or external source results in specific praise to the AP department or officers, let them know it.
- Listen to employees to get an idea about what they want. Employees send subtle messages all the time about what they value. By picking up on these clues, supervisors can devise incentives that offer greater value.
Leadership. These days, many organizations “have too much leadership,” according to management expert Henry Mintzberg. Rather than always setting the direction of the department, LP leaders may want to work on opening up the process and diffuse aspects of leadership throughout the LP department. You’ll know you’ve reached this goal when any LP agent with an idea and some initiative can offer leadership. Leadership helps steer the security ship in the right direction, but too much leadership discourages valuable input for how to get there, say experts.
Vacation. It’s human nature to want to believe that our departments need us, and that when we’re away things don’t run as smoothly. But this can’t stop a security director from adequately planning for his or her absence to ensure that the security function doesn’t suffer. Old advice remains good advice: plan well in advance for being out of the office, give others plenty of notice of your impending absence, and make arrangements for how your critical duties will be administered.
However, there is also some new thinking on staying in touch with the office while on vacation. It’s possible that by periodically checking in and occasionally dealing with some items but not others that a security director can hurt department efficiency. In such cases, remaining security staff may resist making decisions that they should make while they wait for you to check in and offer advice or give the go-ahead. Other items may slip through the cracks altogether.
A better option may be to provide staff with an emergency contact number in the event a situation arises that demands your attention but to otherwise let your contingency plan take care of things, according to Phyllis Weiss Haserot of Practice Development Counsel (New York City; 212-593-1549; pdcounsel.com). Or, if you can’t resist keeping tabs on your department, check in at the same predetermined time every day so staff can judge when they might be able to wait for your input or if they need to go ahead and make a decision on their own.
Retention. Security supervisors tend to give their attention to individuals being groomed to climb the department ladder and those who teeter on edge of dismissal. But steady performers, who neither shine nor cause problems, are often neglected, according to Rosalind Jeffries, president of Performance Enhancement Group. That is a mistake. The way security managers treat these middling performers ultimately determines the department’s retention rate. Loss prevention managers should send an email to supervisors reminding them to do the following for the “forgotten masses”:
- Ask for their input in decisionmaking and express appreciation for their ideas
- Say “thanks.” Jeffries warns against losing steady employees “over something as simple as a thank you.”
- Give them time on your calendar. Recognition is the best tool managers have to affect employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Supervisors can improve all three by showing they personally care; asking employees for their opinions and ideas; providing support and involvement; and encouraging learning and development.
LP departments should be sure they have not positioned recognition as a special event. Supervisors should understand that it’s a critical part of their daily duties–not something to save for a year-end function.